GAO Reports  
GGD-99-124 July 15, 1999

IRS Management: IRS Faces Challenges as it
Restructures the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate

Taxpayers testified before Congress in 1997 about the difficulties they had had in trying to get help from the Internal Reserve Service (IRS) in resolving ongoing problems. Specifically, concerns were raised about IRS' Office of the National Taxpayer Advocate, which was set up to help taxpayers who (1) have been unable to resolve their problems elsewhere in IRS or (2) are suffering significant hardships. GAO identified shortcomings in the Office and in the Problem Resolution Program that could affect how efficiently and effectively services are provided to taxpayers. For example, the Office lacked control over resources for its Problem Resolution Program. It did not know how many employees were working in the program or the costs associated with that staffing. Some staff said that they lacked the necessary training, and limited advancement opportunities make it difficult for the Office to hire and retain qualified employees. Also, demands on the Office to resolve individual taxpayer problems left little time for staff to identify the causes of recurring taxpayer problems and recommend solutions. The Office is in the midst of improving its operations. Many of these changes, such as restructuring Office operations and creating career paths for local advocates, are outgrowths of the requirements of the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998. Other changes, such as developing position descriptions for Problems Resolution Program caseworkers, are the result of Office initiatives. It is too soon to tell, however, how effective these changes will be in overcoming the problems GAO cited. Two areas in which changes are being considered are advocacy and performance measures. But changes in both areas require better information systems than are now available.

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